New York magazine has named author Kathryn Schulz as their new book critic, filling a position that opened more than a year ago when Sam Anderson left for the New York Times Magazine. Schulz is the author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, and, apparently not to any professional detriment, refers to herself as the world’s “leading wrongologist.”
Katherine Boo’s highly anticipated and already highly praised account of “life and death in a Mumbai undercity,” Behind the Beautiful Forevers, hits shelves this week. In our Feb/March issue, Jonathan Shainin praised Boo’s first book as “a testimony to the transcendent power of reportorial humility,” and applauded her ability “to merge her eyes almost completely with those of her characters.” But prior to going to India, Boo deployed her considerable reportorial powers in overlooked parts of the U.S., covering poverty, race, and crumbling welfare systems for the Washington Post and later for the New Yorker. Before picking up the book, these longform pieces are worth checking out. An archive of Boo’s New Yorker pieces are available here and here. ("The Marriage Cure," a 2003 piece on whether marriage actually helps people escape poverty, is a good place to start.) And from the Washington Post, here is a link to "Invisible Lives, Invisible Deaths," Boo’s 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning expose on how social services failed the mentally disabled in Washington, D.C.
Being a bookseller in France is one of the least profitable professions to go into, and with budget cuts bearing down, it just got a little harder. To chip away at the deficit, President Nicolas Sarkozy recently raised the value-added tax on books from 5.5 to 7 percent. The move has enraged booksellers and prompted rumors of a protest. According to the Guardian, “some booksellers have hinted at a possible ‘labelling strike’ where they simply refuse to stick on new price tags.”
Were you wondering who wrote the Walt Whitman-esque, Clint Eastwood-featuring, two-and-a-half-minute Chrysler commercial that aired during the Superbowl last weekend? It was a team of copywriters from the Portland, Oregon, firm Weiden & Kennedy that included Smith Henderson, a writer who recently won a PEN award for his novel-in-progress, and Tin House poetry editor Matthew Dickman, who has written for Narrative and Ploughshares and was the subject of a 2009 New Yorker profile with his twin brother Michael (who’s also a poet).
For readers who don’t have time for book clubs, the Wall Street Journal suggests an alternative: the reading group dedicated to book-review magazines.